Tag Archives: womens rights

Save Women’s Shelters in Afghanistan

The government of Afghanistan has recently introduced a bill that wrests control of women’s shelters in Afghanistan from the local Afghan women’s NGOs that have founded and run them, and transfers that control to the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA). This bill could become the law of the land ANY DAY NOW.

If this bill becomes law:Women and girls seeking shelter will be required to plead their case before an eight-member Government panel, including conservative members of the Supreme Court and Ministry of Justice. This panel will determine whether a woman needs to be in a shelter or should be sent to jail or returned to her home (and her abuser).

Women will have to undergo “forensic” exams (virginity tests) to determine whether they have had sex and therefore committed adultery. The tests are medically invalid.

Once admitted to a shelter, women will be forbidden to leave. Their shelter will become their prison.

There is no discussion in the bill of women’s human rights, of the horrific abuse that most women in shelters have suffered and fled.  The bill discusses shelter food but not how women’s rights will be protected and justice achieved.

And perhaps worst of all, if any family member comes to claim her, even her abuser, she will be handed over to that person, in most cases to be subjected to the harshest retribution for shaming the family.

Read more and sign the petition here.

Women’s Rights at the Crossroads

Hosted by: Sudan Inter-Agency Reference Group and Inter Pares
Attended by: Robin Jackson, Executive Director and Sam Spady, Advocacy Coordinator, on behalf of CFUW

Two Sudanese Women’s Rights Activists spoke about the challenges of civil society in Sudan, and their commitment to continue working with Sudanese women from the North and South through the upcoming referendum.

Sudan, which has endured over fifty years of intermittent civil wars, will come to an important crossroads this January. As a part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005, Southern Sudan will vote in a January, 2011 referendum to decide if they should become an independent state.

The Sudanese activists, Fahima A. Hashim, Director of the Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre and Zaynab Elsawi, Program Coordinator for the Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP) shared how their organizations have been working to build trust and consensus between Northern and Southern women’s groups and have been able to work together to address the repression they collectively face under the al-Bahsir regime.

Although Hashim and Elsawi were not cynical they were not hopeful for the situation in North Sudan following the referendum. While power imbalances and customary laws in the South work against women’s equality, Southern women’s rights are guaranteed in their constitution, and have been able to participate in negotiations. Women in the North do not have this legal tool to use in their efforts, which poses a more difficult situation.

Hashim and Elsawi work focuses on capacity building for women leaders and to advocate for changes to Sudanese laws. One legal area where they have made progress is rape law.  Confronted with the dire situation in Darfur, they worked to compile information on the sexual violence taking place in the Western region of Sudan, and bring clarity to the laws dealing with rape.

Their goal for the presentation was to raise awareness of both the situation for women created by the al-Bashir regime, and to show that there is a continuum of resistance from Sudanese women who are organizing and working to fight for their rights.

The discussion was both worrying and inspiring.  Northern and Southern Sudanese women, who have witnessed decades of civil war and conflict, have been able to build solidarity and a strong network to fight for equality and peace. In the face of a repressive government and violence they have continued their work bravely and patiently. There is a lot we can learn here in Canada from their commitment, strength and tenacity.

Dr. Sima Samar at CFUW AGM 2010

On Wednesday July 14 Dr. Sima Samar, human rights activist and physician met with NGO representatives from Civil Society at a Round Table Hosted for CFUW by Amnesty International.  A number of human rights and women’s groups were there including representatives from the Canadian Muslim community.

CFUW-Ottawa sponsored Dr. Samar’s visit to Canada, as part of the program for the CFUW AGM and Conference in Ottawa from July 16 to 18. Dr. Samar spoke candidly about her experiences and about the need for civil society as well as government engagement.  She addressed issues relating to women’s rights and to the need for education in a country torn by thirty years of war since the time of the Soviet invasion, the rule of the Taliban and the War Lords.

Patricia DuVal, President of CFUW chaired the meeting and recognised all of the groups around the table.

On Tuesday, Dr. Samar was able to attend a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade – meeting first with senior bureaucrats and then with a wider group from CIDA and the Department of Foreign Affairs.  She spoke about issues of corruption within government and the need to work towards a lasting peace.  The Afghan Embassy hosted a further meeting for Aid Groups on Thursday morning.

Dr. Samar received an Honourary doctorate from Carleton University at a special ceremony on Thursday July 15.  Upon receiving the degree she commented that she had never attended her own graduation ceremony, after receiving her medical degree from Kabul University – because of the political situation at the time.

Dr. Samar holds an honourary Order of Canada – the only non-Canadian to be so honoured.  She was nominated for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, and has again been nominated for the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Samar was the keynote speaker at CFUW’s Confederation Banquet – where once again she addressed the issues important to Aghanistan and the way to peace.  Only when women are educated and become part of the peace process, will a lasting peace be possible.